DAJABON, Dominican Republic – The Dominican army has redoubled its efforts to stanch the flood of illegal border crossings from Haiti, detaining at least 930 would-be migrants in recent days, the military said.
The army and the border security force, known as Cesfront, said on Tuesday in a joint statement that the illegal migrants have been detained in groups of between 100 and 150 individuals.
Roughly 600 Haitians were detained Tuesday as they were trying to make their way across the frontier, while hundreds more were apprehended shortly before and after the New Year’s holiday.
“They come in large groups of up to 150 people; they come walking over roads, highways and hills. We catch a lot of them, but others get away as you’d expect because there are too many of them,” an army officer taking part in the operations said.
The army commander in the border region, Col. Ramon Vargas Muñoz, said the success of the operation was due to cooperation between authorities and residents of border communities.
The military said that many Haitians took advantage of a bi-national market on Monday to hide in houses and vacant lots – with the protection of some Dominicans – before beginning their trek to Santiago and other towns in the northern Dominican Republic.
After they are detained, the Haitians are driven to the Cesfront station, located inside the customs office, where they await deportation.
Haitians play “cat and mouse” with the Dominican military, a Cesfront spokesperson told reporters, adding that after being apprehended at a certain spot and sent back across the border the illegal migrants immediately try to cross again via another route.
“We have to be very attentive because (they’re toying with us). We catch them in one place and when we send them back to their country they enter through another. The job’s stressful, but we’re doing it,” another Cesfront official said.
Dominican officials estimate that around 1 million Haitians live in the country, most of them illegal immigrants who work in agriculture and construction.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion. Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugarcane. EFE